British novelist Matt Haig took to Facebook today to pen a beautiful and excoriating denunciation of Republican front-runner Donald Trump. With the classic dry British wit, he sharply highlights his support from those Americans who he would hurt the most – and how we are distracted by the circus-like atmosphere, which hides the sinister danger presented by his ethnonationalist rhetoric.
It’s fun. Laughing at his corn on the cob ‘hair’ and his penis anxieties. It’s amusing. Laughing at his supporters, like extras from Deliverance, clinging to their racist signs and confederate flags like security blankets. It’s hilarious. The idea that a born-rich business man who is enmeshed in the financial system that fucked over poor Americans, is now using the anger this created to his own ends. It is genuinely genuinely funny. The way that he still says he wants to unify America. When he has managed to spew so much hatred he has alienated women, Mexicans, Muslims, the mentally ill (who he blames for gun crime and calls ‘sickos’), and even his fellow Republicans. The idea that he can create peace when his own rallys become mini civil wars. And we are encouraged to laugh, because – underneath – we think he CAN’T become President. And even if he did, then, we are told, he’s just an opportunist. Ted Cruz is worse, they say, because he actually has a belief system.
But wait. Wait wait wait. And wait again.
First, Donald Drumpf could be the next president. Ask any depressive and they will tell you that the worst case can become the scenario. Winston Churchill was depressed enough to understand where the Third Reich could sink to. Being depressed can be useful. We need to be collectively pessimistic. And besides, with Drumpf securing over twice as much media coverage as Bernie and Hilary put together, it’s not pessimism. It’s realism.
Second, he is not JUST an opportunist. He may have flipped and flopped on planned parenthood and the Iraq War but he has always been consistently racist. In the seventies, we now know, thanks to the Daily Beast, his real-estate business was the subject of a lawsuit after it was found to discriminate against African Americans (a C for coloured was put down on application papers to ensure they wouldn’t get a property). Also, there is increasing evidence that his father Fred Drumpf, was the Fred Drumpf from Queens in the 1920s who got arrested for being part of the KKK. And when you see old interviews of Donald from the 80s almost every time he will talk with anger about Japan or Russia ripping off the American people. That classic sign of a racist. Always thinking the natives are getting ripped off by the outsiders, or at least stirring up that narrative. So, when he talks about Mexicans being rapists and when he talks about a wall or when he conflates ‘Islam’ with ‘Islamic extremism’ or when he is slow to distance himself from the KKK or he talks about China being ‘cunning’ he is being opportunistic, yes absolutely, but also consistent.
Third, it really doesn’t matter. Obviously it would be worse if he became president but even if he didn’t, he’s already done damage. Not just in America but across the world. He has allowed the closet racists of the world to step out of their little wardrobes of hate. He has legitimized ignorance. He has shown that if the world watches The Apprentice for too long instead of reading books it slowly loses empathy and the power of critical thought. He has taken the legitimate torrents of anger of poor white people and managed to channel it downstream to the even more marginalized, rather than up river where it belongs.
This new Emperor Nero, who makes Saddam Hussein’s taste in interior design look understated, has shown how you really can’t underestimate an electorate. He, with his vulgar Vegas towers and his golf courses and his shrugged-off hypocrisy, has shown the west that mad rulers don’t just belong in totalitarian regimes. They can belong in the west. Because democracy means little when it becomes another reality TV show.
It might be the end of the world. But we still can’t switch the channel.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.